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Know the Mother

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  232 ratings  ·  45 reviews
While a mother can be defined as a creator, a nurturer, a protector-at the center of each mother is an individual who is attempting to manage her own fears, desires, and responsibilities in different and sometimes unexpected ways. In "Know the Mother," author Desiree Cooper explores the complex archetype of the mother in all of her incarnations. In a collage of meditative ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published March 14th 2016 by Wayne State University Press (first published March 13th 2016)
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4.16  · 
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 ·  232 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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In a mixture of historical and contemporary settings, these 31 flash-fiction stories explore ambivalence about motherhood, and the ongoing racism in America. The opening story, “Witching Hour,” universalizes insomnia and worry through the first-person plural. The excellent “To the Bone” recalls Toni Morrison with its three generations of black women and references to down-home cooking. The slightly longer stories, buoyed by deeper characterization and multiple scenes, are often more successful t ...more
Mistinguette Smith
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading “Know The Mother” yesterday. I am set back on my heels by the sheer beauty and strength of this collection of flash fiction about the interior of mothering, daughtering, being mothered or motherless.

Cooper’s poetic stories made me weep. They uncovered places I did not know that I needed healing. Her characters are like sand in my shoes -- both a little uncomfortable and evoking pleasure and warmth. Cooper is a deft writer: she uses sensual language without sentimentality
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I wish I could buy this book for every reader I know. It's exquisite and powerful, each short short and flash story portraying a distinct and complex life and world. I made the mistake of thinking I could read it quickly, often finding myself in tears from its beauty, having to take breaks. Flash fiction may be short, but I've learned that when it's done right, the content is ever more potent. Cooper is a master of this form. Her language is filled with sensua ...more
Natalie Henriques
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Clearly a talented writer but the stories were a lot darker than expected. If this is a celebration of motherhood it is a celebration of all the things that can go wrong in life as a mother, daughter and wife.
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Know The Mother is a collection of ultrashort stories surrounding motherhood. Some of the entries in this well written collection are so short, I'm not sure we can even call them stories. Maybe meditations, observations, reflections on motherhood. That is not to say that brevity automatically renders these tales ineffective, but the shorter the story, the greater the chance they will lack the necessary impact to be dynamic. It is hard to develop a character in 2-3 pages.

Thanks to the prose, whic
Suzi Baum
I only had one problem with reading Know the Mother.
It was over too soon. Too soon no more jeweled stories of women I want to know more about. No more truth sliding in from the back seat, the kitchen table, the massage table, places where I did not expect to be awed in to a deep attention.
I cannot wait to read what Desiree writes next.
Mary Beth
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
These flash fiction short stories can be read in a flash. But don’t. Take them slowly and let the characters stay with you awhile.

My favorite story: Requiem for a Dress.

Thanks to Desiree Cooper for coming to our book group to talk about gender, race, writing and waking up at 3 a.m.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A small book filled with delicious short stories exploring the complexities of mothers.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm giving this book three stars because, objectively, I can see it has literary merit. However, I didn't enjoy this book AT ALL. I'm not much of a fan of short stories to begin with, and most of these were so bleak I dreaded picking up the book every time I did. Only finished this because it was short and it's for book club.
Pamela Laskin
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just finished the very wonderful, KNOW THE MOTHER by Desiree Cooper. I just heard Desiree read at a Brooklyn literary salon, and her warmth, generosity, humanity, decency and integrity just emanates from this beautifully written book. There are very few books I can say are so beautifully written, but this collection of very short stories has diction which will blow you way over the moon. She understands the demands of being a wife, a mother, a daughter to sick and elderly parents, concerns which ...more
Marie Wyar simerly
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was not emotionally prepared for this collection of short stories, nor did I anticipate the anger and frustration that would build as I made my way through the book. Each story had a different tone and setting, although the theme was consistent - race and gender separate the mother from her surroundings and fellow human beings. I had to keep my emotions in check, from explosive anger to indignation to shame. On the plus side, the stories are beautifully written - the prose flows like poetry in ...more
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book to read in one sitting -- this is a book to be cherished for a life time. The stories in travel through a woman's life. This is our book -- our rendition of "The Red Tent." These are our stories, a journey of what it is to be a daughter, mother, student, wife, professional. Each story needs to read, then read again, absorbed into our being, then picked- up again to be read. Each story will have a different meaning each time it is read in different phases of our lives. Even the ...more
Brandon Will
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Cooper's skillful at precisely and profoundly showing the living histories that make up the ice-burg below the tips of the small moments her characters are experiencing. A grandmother going through airport security, a mother giving into a spa day gifted from her grown children, a young family being refused proper hotel service, a young girl who feels invisible and her mother who did at the daughter's age, a young teacher telling a joke to her class and the unexpected deep connection with a stude ...more
Linda Sienkiewicz
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of flash fiction pieces - the longest story is 12 pages, the shortest is one - but each story packs a wallop. Desiree is a skilled writer who's adept at making excellent use of what is left unsaid, allowing her readers to complete the vignette. Each story is like a magic box, holding twists, sharp emotions, longings and uncertainties, fishhooks, briefcases, burros, blood, mothers, fathers, sisters and daughters. KNOW THE MOTHER is a book I keep on my nightstand when I want a ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book of short stories. I love the humanity portrayed and the everyday interactions that make up relationships. Though the details involve the ordinary of relationships, this book and its themes are far from ordinary. The important questions of life are wrapped up in the careful details of this lovely book. I am reminded why reading fiction is so important to me and to our culture. I love Desiree Cooper's prose and voice.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emotional Rollercoster

This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster through womanhood and motherhood. I enjoyed that each snippet was short but filled with so much joy, pain, love, and care. This book isn't one of my typical reads, but I'm glad that I picked it up. It's a great read for all and easily enjoyable. Warning you may find yourself with watery eyes, that was my experience especially when I read Requiem for a Dress.
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This slender book of more than thirty short short stories is one of the most memorable and giftable things I've read in recent years. Her style is a kind of poetic prose that rings like a bell. I'll be getting a few more copies as gifts for female friends - I can't imagine a better Mother's Day gift.
Sean Kottke
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, michigan-books
This is a superb collection of flash fiction and slightly longer short stories that comprise a kaleidoscope of vignettes of motherhood across centuries of African American women's experiences around and outside of Detroit, and across class lines. It would make a stirring paired read with Bonnie Jo Campbell's Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Over 30 vignettes, and each of them left me feeling some type of emotion. This collection of stories tackles racism and sexism, through the eyes of a woman, as well as the emotions women and mothers experience as they mother their children, parents, husbands and lovers. Great read!
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Reading for a Rainy Day

Wonderfully written vignettes. Reading this collection was like sneaking a peak into the souls of other women, mothers, daughters and finding a glimpse of yourself.
Julie Topping
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every woman will read this book and recognize something about themselves. Everyone who knows a woman will be grateful for how much they learn about her in this book. Excellent read.
Shenelle Gaston
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
The stories have such a huge range, from extremely suspenseful, to warm and loving, I was amazed by the impact Desiree Cooper was able to deliver in such few pages.
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-hoard, true-love
These are very short stories, but almost every single one was a punch to the gut. I reread most stories immediately after I finished them to see how she did it.
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
These stories are amazing, haunting, gut-wrenching, and beautiful!
Kathryn Kochunas
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories feels like a string of deep dives in the time it takes to dip a toe in a puddle.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Strange, minuscule stories that hop into new characters, times, and places as if changing costumes between scenes at a play.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
really quick, really great flash fictions surrounding the many ideas of the mother. i'm in love with this book.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome. Awesome read!
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Have you ever read a book and thought, "Wish I'd written this?" Cooper infuses story after story with relatable characters and family situations. I liked them all and was moved by many, especially "The Disappearing Girl." Cooper expertly navigates the tricky relationship waters of mothers and their children, their mothers, their significant others, and with themselves (and other permutations). This is a topic I also explore in personal essays and memoir so I especially appreciated her deft use o ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Desiree Cooper and I started our legal careers on the same day at the same law firm. She only stayed a few years, giving up the legal profession to pursue her passion - writing. I don't remember if she was a great lawyer but she is a great writer. I read this collection of flash fiction from cover to cover in a couple of hours, and then went back and re-read some of my favorites. Desiree is coming to the Grosse Pointe Public Library Books on the Lake series in May 2019 - read the book and go to ...more
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In Know the Mother, Cooper explores how sexism and racism continue to uncoil in the midst of life's most intimate moments. A former journalist and Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist for the Detroit Free Press, Cooper uses the compressed form of "flash fiction" to tell an entire story. Slipping between poetry and prose, the 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow takes the reader to places where race and gender ...more